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India one of our top 5 markets: Wavemaker's Alastair Aird

Livemint:  November 10, 2017

New Delhi: Alastair Aird, global chairman of Wavemaker, the media, content and technology agency created after the merger of GroupM’s traditional media businesses MEC and Maxus was in India for the official launch of the new firm.

“India is one of the top five markets globally for us. It is important from size, scale and growth perspective. This market will contribute to our growth globally in terms of new products as well as clients,” said Aird.

Globally, Wavemaker handles blue chip clients like Colgate-Palmolive, Vodafone, Viacom, Paramount Pictures, L’oreal and Netflix. In India, the agency services clients like Hero Motocorp, Paytm, Indian Premier League (IPL), Tata Global Beverages and Myntra among others.

“Our global clients only contribute 20-25% to our global business and a majority 75-80% of the business comes from local clients,” he added.

In an interview, Aird talks about what makes Wavemaker different, content taking centre stage and why regional leadership needs more global exposure. Edited excerpts:

What prompted the merger to create Wavemaker?

MEC was strong as a Europe based business while Maxus had its heart in Asia Pacific. Structurally, when we have brought these two agencies together to create a single entity it became number two globally and in India. Both MEC and Maxus shared a number of clients and servicing them through a single entity would be much more effective.

What does the merger of two traditional media buying agencies signify?

Currently, clients are inundated with data and they want forward thinking media agencies to help them make sense of this data. Wavemaker is fixated around interpreting data to make customer purchase journey efficient. We have a new operating system called Rapid Growth Planning (RGP) which will sync all the data coming from Maxus and MEC along with the (M) platform, the data arm of GroupM. The data will help track what are consumer looking to buy online or offline and placing the ad strategically across media channels to target them.

Are there any interesting media trends that make the India market unique?

Indian market continues to expand faster than the rest of the world when it comes to media spends. We are forecasting low advertising expenditure (Adex) 10-11% for this year and we are hoping that it will get back to 15-18% of the growth bracket in the next 18 months. India is the only market witnessing growth in print medium. There has been a healthy balance across all mediums with a huge growth potential in digital which currently has 13-14% spends growing at 30%. There’s a headroom to grow when you compare it to markets like the UK where digital spends are 50%.

Do you think large media platforms like Facebook and YouTube are posing threat to the business of media buying?

We have been called ‘frenemies’ for many years. But, we have collaborated around the brand safety issue (ads appearing on digital platform next to controversial content which can affect brand’s reputation) with Facebook and YouTube extensively. Media platforms have realized that there is value in having a media agency. Google and Facebook are among our top three media suppliers globally and our growth is linked to theirs. Also, these media giants give us access to consumer data which helps to create better media strategy for clients.

What is your target for Wavemaker in 2018?

We have not set any revenue targets yet but we have a clear focus on both ensuring gender and ethnic diversity across functions and on our board as well. Kartik Sharma, managing director, Wavemaker South Asia is on our global board. While former chief executive of Maxus Asia Pacific Ajit Varghese will be moving to London to a larger role. We want our biggest local markets to direct the way in which we will operate globally.

Disclaimer: This information has been collected through secondary research and IBEF is not responsible for any errors in the same.